Saturday, July 16, 2005


I've just been reading a blog that horrified me. I had been searching for blogs referring to massage or bodywork, looking for some clues as to how other people have worked with that avocation, and I came across the blog of a man who worked at it full time, doing a heavy schedule of massage, as well as teaching it part time.

There was nothing so awful about it, really. It began two years ago, as he was beginning an affair with a married woman. He carefully recorded that beginning, but rapidly she became background material, and he was noting down the details of other flirtations. Sometimes at the bottom of the page he would score the day, on a scale apparently running from zero to twelve, over a varying number of categories, such as "money," "passion," "hugs" -- he meticulously noted the various hugs women gave him, and analyzed their meaning and nuance, as eskimos supposedly note the meaning and nuance of snow.

Occasional remarks about his clients, and a sort of "Bush delendum est" refrain as the 2004 elections approached, but otherwise it was a relentless monotone -- which pretty women would touch him, how much, with what intent. Nothing else could hold his attention.

Sometimes notes of a woman who flirted outrageously with him, whom he dismissed impatiently -- she was in his vocabulary, "queen-sized," whereas his attention was riveted on small women with "tight buns." Never a flicker of acknowledgement that the queen-sized woman was inhabiting the same hungry-ghost realm as he was; never a gleam of compassion for a fellow-sufferer. But he kept having lunch with her. A flirtation with someone he wasn't interested in was small-change, apparently, but money is money, and he wasn't going to just leave it on the table.

For two years it goes on, this monochrome, obsessive life. For all the detail, the character of these women who fill his field of vision remains a blank. They exist for him only as measures of his own importance and acceptance. Once one has accepted him as a lover, her usefulness as a yardstick is compromised, and he begins to find her attention importunate and annoying.

It was harrowing but fascinating. I felt I was reading the autobiography of my own damnation. I turned away from it with exhausted gratitude that somehow, by the grace of something, my life did not turn out like his. It was close enough, at times.

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